Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mass Preventive Medicine Prevents Individual Rights

In April, I reported that I had read the first 8 chapters of Gary Taubes's book "Good Calories, Bad Calories". I pointed out that those chapters are replete with evidence that "Government encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true. It merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood." That quote is from Ayn Rand in her essay Establishing of an Establishment now in the book Philosophy: Who Needs It which can be purchased here.

I quoted two paragraphs of his book from the chapter "Creation of Consensus" which showed how evidence contrary to government policy tends not to get funded by the funding agencies, and often gets attacked by their spokesmen. Also, it is this pressure that causes some scientists to interpret the findings of their studies in a light favorable to government policy even when the studies themselves do not support it.

Today's post will look at how this indifference to truth is evolving into the destruction of the concept of health by moving it from the individual context--its rightful place--to a collective context. In other words, the concept of 'public health' is to be considered separate from and superior to individual health. And since you are an individual, your health doesn't matter and can be sacrificed to the good of the collective or the so-called 'common good.'

An example of this is provided by Sandy Szwarc at in a post about a conference at which it was advocated that medical ethics be replaced by social ethics. Summarizing it for us Ms. Szwarc writes:
Essentially, this philosophy argues that the obesity “epidemic” is such a threat to society and our quality of life, that to be moral and ethical, public health policies and preventive health must act in the name of the common good. Public interests are more important than those of individuals. The government must determine what is best for all, as individuals are incapable of protecting themselves. Society, most importantly, must act on behalf of children. Today’s public health has reached such crisis proportions, the viewpoint goes, that coercive policies that strip away individual freedoms and leave people no choice but to comply with “healthy behaviors” are now justified.
I recommend reading the whole short article. The desire of these people to employ the use of force against American citizens is obvious.

That the new concept of 'public health' is designed to sacrifice the individual to some higher entity like the 'common good' is indisputable. But in fact, there is no such thing as public health per se. Most people who use that term generally regard it to mean the sum of the health of all the people in a given society or at least a majority of them since someone is always sick somewhere. That would be a valid use of the term public health. That is not however the intent of the new concept in its collective context. In its new context, public health' is a tool to serve the concept 'common good' or 'public interest' the definition of which will be determined by the intellectuals. But is there such a thing as 'common good'?
When "the common good" of a society is regarded as something apart from and superior to the individual good of its members, it means that the good of some men takes precedence over the good of others, with those others consigned to the status of sacrificial animals. It is tacitly assumed, in such cases, that “the common good” means “the good of the majority” as against the minority or the individual. Observe the significant fact that that assumption is tacit: even the most collectivized mentalities seem to sense the impossibility of justifying it morally. But “the good of the majority,” too, is only a pretense and a delusion: since, in fact, the violation of an individual’s rights means the abrogation of all rights, it delivers the helpless majority into the power of any gang that proclaims itself to be “the voice of society” and proceeds to rule by means of physical force, until deposed by another gang employing the same means.-Ayn Rand Lexicon
Observe how Rand identifies the "good of the majority" as only a pretense and a delusion. This is so true and very important. The new concept of public health can mean anything the 'authorities' want it to mean. It can mean the sacrifice of a minority to a majority or of the majority to a minority. This last is its real meaning. To see how, I have to return to "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and Mr. Taubes' description of how the mass preventive medicine idea took hold.
"This strategy [collective medicine-ME] is credited to the British epidemiologist Geoffrey Rose, a longtime veteran of the dietary-fat controversy. "The mass approach is inherently the only ultimate answer to the problem of mass disease," Rose explained in 1981.

"But, however much it may offer to the community as a whole, it
offers little to each participating individual. When mass
diphtheria immunization was introduced in Britain 40 years ago,
even then roughly 600 children had to be immunized in order that
one life be saved--599 'wasted' immunizations for the one that was
effective....This is the kind of ratio that one has to accept in
mass preventive medicine. A measure applied to many will actually
benefit few." (Rose quote)

When it came to dietary fat and heart disease, according to Rose's calculation, only one man in every fifty might expect to avoid a heart attack by virtue of avoiding saturated fat for his entire adult life: "Forty-nine out of fifty would eat differently everyday for forty years and perhaps get nothing from it." (pp66,67)
So we see that 49 people will be sacrificed for the alleged benefit of one. That is collectivism. It is important here to understand how these collectivists think. By way of an analogy, collectivists see a barrel of 300 apples, (or 300 million people) and notice that 1 in 50 are bad. They see doctors treat each bad apple individually and return them to health. They see that the entire population has been improved. They wish to be as beneficial to mankind as those doctors are. But they seek a shortcut. Instead of treating individual apples to make them better, they look only at the whole population and dream of what it would be like to prevent those 6 apples from going bad. This would certainly be better for all of applekind wouldn't it?

Studies are done and a 'socially acceptable' range of sizes and colors for healthy apples is politically established. All apples must conform to these new standards for their own good. There is only one problem with this behavior on the part of apple authorities. It ignores the nature of apples. According to this web site, there are about 7500 varieties of apples each having its own nature. It's obvious that if any one-size-fits-all program of preventive medicine won't work with apples, it sure as hell won't work with humans. But this kind of thinking is what collectivists want to force or see forced on the public. Only this time the 'public' does mean every individual.

But the truth is they don't care about those 6 apples, or the 294 others whose forced sacrifices are now required. The real ideal of the collectivists is sacrifice, the sacrifice of everyone to everyone all the time. And the tool that will help them achieve this goal is mass preventive medicine as permanent government policy.

The only way a society can protect itself from them is to fight for a separation of state and economics and the best place to start is in medicine. Aside from a rare quarantine, the government has no business getting involved in medicine or public health in any way. The United States was founded on the principle of the primacy of the individual, not the collective or the state.

(As an aside, I recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories if for no other reason than that it's a good history of diet hypotheses and public policy. I don't agree with everything he says but in fairness, he calls for more randomized, double-blind, clinical trials to study refined carbohydrates in a quality way. While I'm not in favor of government funding of any science-except for defense-if it is going to fund some studies then it should fund this also.)
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